Simply the mention of her name was enough to make my heart flutter. I’d call her, or she’d call me to hang out or go have a drink. She didn’t have a car at the time, so I always picked her up. I’d miss-call her when I arrived, and wait for her to come down from the fourth floor of her building. I could feel my heart rate speeding up each time I drove to her apartment. And when I parked below to wait for her, I was always so nervous and excited. I could feel the tension rising slowly but steadily with every passing second. A tension punctuated each time she emerged from her building by sharp stabbing/tickling feelings in my stomach that knocked my breath right out of me, also known as a severe case of the butterflies.
She told me often enough how comfortable she was with me, we were close. We saw each other often and each time we did the conversation flowed effortlessly. To be honest, so many of our conversations were about men. My ex, her ex, that guy at the bar ogling her with his eyes. We talked about lots of things, and the fact that she’d been with a girl before was one of them. She didn’t identify with any sexuality label, but since that one girl had gone out with men exclusively.
Whenever we spent time together I wanted to tell her I was interested in her, but how could I? First off, we had a lot of friends in common. If anything were to happen between us they would eventually have to know. Not only would they have to know, but things would change if we were a couple. I’d think that, then I’d notice how far ahead of myself I was getting. I could tell her I was interested only to be rejected, but that would also have an impact on the group.
But then again, I’m not really talking about the real reason behind my hesitation am I? The truth of the matter is that for the first time I found myself interested in a woman seriously. I wasn’t just thinking about a fling, or something in passing. I knew her very well, and I loved her. I was in love with her. If I were to try for something with her it would be real, a relationship. And what kind of relationship would that be?
One of my favorite things about being with my ex, a man, was his family. In short, I was seen as his significant other and someone important, and I was welcomed into the family. The same applied for him; he often spent time with me and my family and they knew who he was to me.
That could never happen if I were in a lesbian relationship. I would not be invited as a plus one to weddings or to any Christmas dinners. I wouldn’t be able to invite her to our yearly family get together in the village; I’d have to go it alone and bite my tongue when my cousins started boasting about their fiancées and swallow down the fact that I think she takes the lead in that lot by far.
How can you be a real part of someone’s life when they have to deny your existence to their family? I don’t mean to criticize or belittle the many people who have had to do that, but one can’t deny how difficult it would be. I could never tell my parents if I were in a same-sex relationship, never. My father is old, and has a weak heart which often misbehaves when he’s stressed. I am terrified of what telling him could do to him.
And what’s more, I am an only child and my parents have been dreaming about my wedding for years now. They speak of it often, of how happy they will be when they know I have a good man to share my life with. They joke about how they will spoil their grandchildren rotten. And although I know that my life is my own, I am also weighed down by the fact that if I were to live my life the way I want to I would be a great disappointment to them. And although I don’t care for the opinion of society, or what people say behind my back, my parents do. I don’t dare to imagine what they would have to go through if I were to come out.
If I move forward with her, and my advance is met with similar interest, I’d be committing myself to a lifetime of lying to my parents and the world. I would have to give up simple joyful things, such as the sight of my father dancing at my wedding. And maybe what doubles down on the brakes for me is that asking her to be with me would be asking her to give up the same things.
Is love enough in the face of all that? Is it worth it? I can’t answer that. I can’t say that being with her is worth lying to my family or losing them. I can say that when we’re apart, I worry about these things. Reasons why I shouldn’t be with her flood my mind, and I feel powerless to confront them.
But when I’m with her, these worries seem trivial. Actually, that is an understatement. When I am with her, I worry about nothing and I’m the happiest version of myself. And that version of myself is not risk-averse.